Jesus. The stumbling block. The one who messes up everyone’s preconceived notion of what is true and real. The supreme apple-cart tipper. The thorn in every philosopher’s side.
Josh McDowell, in his book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, once explained that there are only three things you can do with Jesus. You can call him a liar who deceived his followers. You can call him a lunatic who not only deceived his followers, but also himself. Or you can call him Lord, as he claimed for himself to be the One sent by the Father to redeem all mankind and to start a new form of human race, one filled with His Spirit and who would walk in the pattern of life in His Kingdom (as He did) with Him as Lord.
Lately, I‘ve noticed a fourth option—just ignore him.
This seems to be the position taken by most people I see. The crash of media images, the daily bombardment of information via social media and the 24-hour news cycle, has made us numb to anything that happened in history—even the Son of God entering it. We live in the perpetual present.
And yet, Jesus coming to earth is a historical event like no other, because he is like no other. We dare not group Jesus with any military leader, philosopher, or the head of any religion. None of these ever said they were the incarnation of God—and proved it. None of them fulfilled a two-thousand-year-old tradition of prophecy where over three hundred prophetic utterances declared details of his life including where he would be born and how he would die. None of them healed the sick (including the blind and those with incurable leprosy) and raised the dead in front of thousands of witnesses.
Along with Jesus’ claim to have been the Messiah, he also explained that with his death and resurrection (again, something that cannot be explained away), he was creating a new way of being. Paul calls it a new creation. He says that those who enter into this new humanity, who identify with Jesus death and resurrection, dying to themselves and being raised into new life with him, will be made new and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. This will give them the power to live a new life.
The Apostles did this. Each one of them was transformed from the cowering sniveling deniers at the time of Jesus’ death to the bold empowered witnesses who stood up to power after his resurrection and ascension into heaven and outpouring of the Spirit. From that time to this, men and women have put their faith and trust in Jesus, and his death and resurrection to forgive their sins and transform them into a new humanity, one which will be fully revealed at the end of the age.
No, none of the other philosophers or religious leaders have ever said that they were able to do this. Here, Jesus is completely unique.
There was a time when all of history revolved around this Jesus—the man who lived and was raised and still lived as Lord. In fact, in the 500s men changed the very division of history to coincide with his birth. It can be easily said that no person in human history has had such a profound effect on Western civilization than Jesus.
Western? What about Eastern? What about the influence of Buddha? Yes, Siddhartha Gautama had a tremendous influence upon the thinking and practice in India, China, and the rest of the East. But, he declared that he had discovered a way to enlightenment, not that he was the way, as Jesus did. One could follow the teachings of the Buddha quite separate from his person—Buddhism without Buddha. But you cannot, in the same way, separate Christianity from Jesus. He is the center. He is the savior and the Lord.
So, a word to those who have chosen to ignore Jesus. Wake up out of your media fast-paced life induced stupor. Put down the video game controller. Stop for a moment (maybe many moments) and consider seriously the person of Jesus. Read the gospels in the New Testament (or listen to them on your smartphone) and ask yourself, who was this guy?
If you come to the honest decision that he was a liar or a lunatic, then you’re done with him—maybe. The teaching of the New Testament, if it is right, says that all of us will be judged by our answer to the question of what we thought about Jesus and how we reacted to his command for us to follow Him. It will probably not go well for those who have to say to him, “I thought you were lying.”
One last thing. It may be that the majority now a days chooses to ignore Jesus for the very reason that to take him seriously would put them in a terrible position. To take Jesus seriously is to take responsibility. It is to admit that he said he was Lord. Well, now what? There are only a two possibilities. One can tell Jesus, “I don’t care. You may in fact be the Lord of all life, but so what? This is my life and I’m going to live it any way I please. If I go to Hell afterwards (something I really don’t believe), then so be it. At least I will be able to say that I was free to do what I wanted.”
The second alternative is to agree that Jesus is Lord and to find your life by losing it, by giving it to Him. In Christ, you will find a new freedom, one not based on selfishness, but one based on doing things according to the plan of the One who created and designed all things. You will find a new relationship to God and a new identity and a new meaning to all reality. On top of this, those in Christ do have a hope of living eternally with God as His sons and daughters. Not a bad gig at all.
So the question stands—What will you do with Jesus?